Greetings folks! I genuinely hope that your August was filled with great photo opportunities and that you’ve filled your archives with copious quantities of beautiful pictures. My August was spent writing books and traveling to Alaska to work on a short term mission.
Many of you helped support my trip, so I thought I’d include a few photos to show a bit of what we accomplished. Our mission team worked on a Covenant Church youth camp facility about ten miles outside the village of Unalakleet, Alaska. Our goals were to make some significant improvements to the camp so they can continue their important work with Alaska’s youth. We increased the size of the main building, started a second water well, improved the trail network and built additional storage facilities. In all, we had about 25 men and women fly in to donate their time and materials. It was a great trip and I was honored to be a part of it all.
Workshops are continuing to go very well and we are still seeing strong attendance at most events. We have just a few seats available in this year’s remaining classes. The Art of Travel class in Mazama this October is almost sold out. Our workshops in New York and Washington DC are completely sold out. The first Africa Safari is sold out and the second Africa Safari has a couple of seats open. Feel free to write if you have any questions about the workshops and I’ll get back to you right away.
D700 Setup Guide and Setup Files Posted
Great news! I have uploaded the Nikon D700 setup guide PDF. You can download it for free right here:
Also, I have added the D700 binary files so that you can copy my settings to your memory card and then upload those settings to your D700 camera. They are posted here:
The instructions for uploading the settings to your camera are posted in our June 2008 newsletter:
August GOAL Assignment: Sticking Your Neck Out
Last month’s GOAL assignment was to stick your neck out there and try something completely new. I wanted you all to shoot something or go somewhere that you haven’t done before to see what happens. Having the guts to try something new as a photographer is a great way to teach yourself new skills. I like to challenge myself with new photo opportunities as often as possible in order to keep my mind sharp with new ideas. It is easy to get stuck in a rut by shooting the same subjects over and over again.
The great thing about my job is that I get to work with hundreds of photographers every year and see all the projects they are working on. Just in the last few months, other photographers have written to tell me what they are doing on their own to enhance their skills. Here are just a few examples:
– Donating their time to the YMCA to take portraits of the staff and volunteers.
– Signing up with the local newspaper as a photographer to shoot events in their neighborhood.
– Arranging with the local Director of Tourism in their home town to use their photographs for the next advertising campaign.
– Shooting the team photos for their daughter’s soccer club.
– Taking on a job shooting jewelry for a local artist’s catalog and advertising project.
All of these people have written to express both their enthusiasm and trepidation over their new project. I know that each person will grow tremendously just because they challenged themselves to photograph something entirely out of their comfort range.
It is amazing to see how much your skills improve when you are forced to complete a project. Trying to meet someone else’s timeline and expectations is a great motivator to improve your photography. It forces you to think about much more than just shutter speeds and apertures. Instead, you need to think about the entire process, which often involves telling a story or capturing details you didn’t think about before or shooting at high noon on a sunny day. Photographic projects focus your thoughts in a much different way than when you are “just out taking photos”.
Taking a dose of my own medicine, I challenged myself during July to try to take some compelling photos of sailing ships. I’ve always been impressed with the high-end photos that I see in sailing magazines and coffee table books and have wanted to try something similar myself.
This July, we had a Tall Ships Festival here in the Puget Sound region of Washington State and I knew there would be some wonderful photographs waiting for me if I set my mind to it. The Puget Sound is an inland marine waterway full of harbors, channels and beautiful scenery. By itself, the region is amazing, but add the Tall Ships to the equation and you have a recipe for fantastic images.
The Tall Ships Festival is a huge event with somewhere around a half million people attending. Obviously, there are all kinds of security requirements and regulations that make it difficult to get close to the ships for taking captivating photographs on your own. I thought about taking my own boat out on the water, but all the local TV stations were reporting that the security boats and police boats were requiring private boats to stay many hundreds of feet away from the Tall Ships while they were under sail.
After a little bit of research, I found that the Tall Ship Festival’s media department was offering some select spots on boats for the local media. I had photographed the festival from the shore before, but thought that it would be great fun and a good challenge to shoot from an official media boat.
The media office was restricting access to only news photographers who were shooting for traditional media outlets like TV stations and daily newspapers. I didn’t fit into either of those categories, but I still wanted to go and get some stellar photos to use for my books and articles. Since I’ve never shot for a daily newspaper in my life, I figured my chances of getting on the boat were slim to none. However, I decided to stick my neck out there and try to get on the boat with the other media photographers. I filled out my media credentials application and faxed it into the media office for the event. On the application I explained about my photography company and my monthly newsletter. I also talked about the books I write and other projects with which I’m affiliated. A couple days later, I called up the office to see if my application was approved and they said “yes”. I said, “Great, sign me up!”
On the day of my assigned photo shoot, I went into the media center office to collect my press pass and sign in for the media boat. The press room was much like you’d expect to see at a large public event. The room had computers, internet access, desks, network ports, and lots of photographers with big black cameras and bigger lenses. There was an AP (Associated Press) area in a separate office to give the pool photographers their own space to work. In a separate room there was food, fruit, soft drinks, and bottled water. We also had access to fax machines, TV and radio if we needed them.
There were four photographers including me assigned to the press boat that evening. Two were photographers for local newspapers and the other was a photographer for the AP. The Tall Ships event was 5 days long and each day had at least two media boats on the schedule. The first boat of the day would go out in the morning for the first Tall Ships cruise and the second would go out for the evening Tall Ships cruise. I wanted to go out in the evening since I knew that we’d have a higher likelihood of wind and sun – two critical elements for great sailing photos! Although the day had started off rainy and cloudy, the skies started clearing up and the sun began peeking through the clouds just as we left the docks.
Our media boat had big 6 foot long banners on it that read “Media”. These banners gave us close access to the Tall Ships as they sailed around Commencement Bay in Tacoma, WA. Without these banners, we wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near the sailing ships.
The highlight for this evening was a mock canon battle between three of the ships. The ships would sail in close proximity to each other and launch a broadside “attack” with their black powder canons. Everyone on board would yell and cheer while the pirates would heckle the other ships. Our press boat was close enough to the action that we could feel the concussion and smell the smoke! I imagine that the people on the boats were deafened by the noise, but completely giddy with excitement.
We photographers were in constant communication with our press boat captain and were always asking him to position us between the Tall Ships so we could capture them in the perfect light. Being able to mix it up with the Tall Ships as they fired away at each other was a great experience. We were right in the middle of the action and the cacophony of noise added to the excitement. Boom!
The light was perfect, the sails were full, the canons were firing, and a huge smile had formed on my face. Sticking my neck out to shoot with some professional photojournalists had so far proven to be a wise choice. After two hours of thrilling photography, the sun began to set and we started looking for compositions of the boats against the sunset sky. We’d take a few silhouettes and then swing around to shoot as the warm rays of the sun lit up the front of a different ship.
Working hard to get on this photo shoot was a grand adventure and a great learning experience. It is always fun to work with other professional photographers and it is neat to see how they think about photography. The best thing about the shoot was what I learned in the process:
– Position yourself for the best photo. As the sun was setting, light was changing fast. We had to position our media boat so that we’d be in the correct spot as the Tall Ships passed in front of the sun. Our group of photographers asked the captain to position the boat for every photo we took. We worked hard to come up with compelling images and didn’t just let things “happen”.
– Use VR or IS lenses and fast shutter speeds! My standard rule for hand holding lenses is to use a shutter speed that is approximately the inverse of the lens’ focal length. For example, if I’m shooting with a 200mm lens, then I should use approximately 1/200 sec shutter speed. Using VR (vibration reduction) lenses means that I can cheat a bit and use longer shutter speeds like 1/60 sec. However, with the bobbing boat, the wind and the waves, I found that I really needed to shoot at very fast shutter speeds like 1/500 or 1/1000 second to get sharp photographs.
– Keep shooting even after the event is over. After the Tall Ships had finished their battle, we motored back to harbor and I was tempted to put my camera away. I’m happy I didn’t because I found quite a few compelling photographs of the Puget Sound in the evening twilight; shots that were different than what I was after, but very good none the less. The moral is to keep shooting until you get home!
I know that I’m a better photographer because I stuck my neck out there to try something new. The memories of this photo trip will last for years.
September GOAL Assignment: Keep Your Horizon Level
There were a surprising number of questions from our readers this month about methods and techniques for keeping your horizons level. Sometimes angled horizons can look edgy or creative, but most fine art photographs require a nice, level horizon for it to look accurate and realistic. If you are going to take photographs at a professional level, then there is no excuse for crooked horizons.
Your Get Out And Learn (GOAL) assignment for September is to put special effort into making your horizons level and your trees vertical. Next month, I’ll show a number of methods and techniques to help you in this noble endeavor!
Digital Tidbits: Nikon D90 Preview
Last week, Nikon officially announced their newest camera, the Nikon D90 SLR. What makes this camera unique is that it is the first SLR from any manufacturer to offer both still photography and HD video in the same camera body. The concept is exciting and I’m eager to try out the new technology.
Simply speaking, the D90 is the upgrade to the venerable Nikon D80 camera body. While the D80 and D90 look very similar to each other, the improvements with the D90 take it into a new league. The D90 will have a 12.3 megapixel DX sensor that should have the same quality and ISO performance as the Nikon D300 camera. The D90 LCD has been upgraded to the same 3 inch screen that is standard on the D3 and D300 cameras.
The camera is really breaking a lot of new ground by incorporating so many new technologies into one compact camera body. It will have a GPS interface for the new Nikon GPS (the GP-1), HD video, Live View, ISO 3200, 4.5 frames per second, better menus, fast startup time, bigger viewfinder, calendar view in playback, improved autofocus and the list goes on and on.
The new HD video option on the D90 will be a great way for traveling photographers to fully integrate their video and still photography. Imagine heading out on a trip to Europe and taking all your photos and HD video on one camera unit. The D90 will also have the ability to shoot video while using any of our standard Nikon lenses. This is great because you’ll be able to use selective depth of field in your video work, something that hasn’t been possible in consumer video cameras. The bigger sensor of the D90 allows a very narrow depth of field while the smaller sensors in traditional video cameras meant that almost everything was in focus. I can’t wait to shoot a movie with an 85mm f1.4 lens and then look at it on a 60 inch plasma HD TV screen. Wow!
There are some downsides to the D90 video capability. The first is that the camera won’t autofocus while you are shooting video. This is because it will be taking live video from the camera’s sensor while the mirror is up. When the mirror is up, the AF sensors become inactive in most SLR cameras. Second, the video will be captured at 20 frames per second which is a little bit slow to allow for a creamy smooth video experience. Higher end HD cameras shoot at 30 frames per second which allows for a smoother viewing experience. The thirst downside to the video capability is that the longest continuous clip the camera will capture is five minutes. In other words, you won’t be able to set the camera up on a tripod and video the entire Swan Lake ballet this Christmas.
Even with these limitations, the D90 is a bellwether that is rapidly ushering in a new age in digital technology. Nikon is advancing technology very quickly now, and I can only imagine what our cameras will look like in 5 more years. I envision the ability to seamlessly integrate stills and video with full stereo sound. I anticipate shooting video in near darkness with HD resolution. Nikon is pushing the envelope with their new cameras and I am thrilled to be in the photo business right now. This is truly exciting stuff and I can’t wait to get my hands on a model to try it out.
With just over three months remaining in the year, our available workshops are rapidly drying up. We have a couple seats remaining in our Art of Travel Photography class this October and a couple seats available in our Africa Safari. After those are filled, we are completely sold out.
Have no fear though, because we are putting together an exciting schedule for 2009 that will include lots of new classes, travel locations and cutting edge technology. We hope to have the new schedule posted in the next few weeks.
The Art of Travel Photography Workshops
Join us for a photographic adventure in 2008! Learn how to turn your next vacation into an artistic event with our Art of Travel Photography Workshops. The next adventure will be in the North Cascades NP/Mazama 10/2/08 ~ 10/5/08. If you are thinking of signing up, contact us immediately in order to be placed on our signup list. Go here for more details:
Nikonians Academy Workshops
We’ll be teaching great photographic subjects in Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Portland, Atlanta, Dallas, Washington DC, Tanzania, and more!
Our topics include:
– Two African Safaris
– Photo trips to Moab, Yosemite, Big Sur and more
– Nikon D300
– Nikon D200
– Nikon D80/D70
– iTTL Flash
– Hands-on Digital Printing
Find out about all of our workshops here: www.nikoniansacademy.com.
Private instruction is a very popular and affordable way to learn specifically what you want to learn in a one-on-one environment. During these sessions, we are able to work specifically on your own photographic needs and at your own pace. Available topics are studio lighting, nature photography, wedding photography, Photoshop, color management, digital workflow, flash photography, portraiture, exposure theory, and more. Many of our customers have requested specific topics and we have tailored our private tutoring to their needs. Call (253) 851-9054 or email ([email protected]) if you have questions about this option.
Many of you have written to express your appreciation for all the information on our website. I thank you for your kind words and I look forward to hearing of your photo exploits this month. Keep up the great work!
Out There Images, Inc. – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335